Despite sitting second in the AFL ladder with the regular season entering its final third, Collingwood’s hopes of challenging for honours hasn’t been helped by yet more injuries hitting an already depleted roster. The latest names to join the ever-increasing casualty list are Will Hoskin-Elliot and Flynn Appleby. The duo picked up their injuries in the bruising victory over Essendon in round 16 – a result that saw the Pies extend their winning run to seven games. But despite their current form on the field, the club will be desperate to have a number of key players back from the treatment room in the run up to the finals.
In more promising news, Darcy Moore, Travis Varcoe and Josh Smith all made successful returns in the VFL having recovered from their respective hamstring injuries, although Nathan Buckley won’t want to throw the trio back into the fold until they are completely ready. Much could depend on how important the minor premiership is to the club. In the same way you take a chance when you play one of the slots at the likes of Joe Fortune, Buckley may feel he needs to spin the wheel in the hope of landing the jackpot and winning the 20th minor premiership in the Pies’ history.
It’s no secret that Collingwood have their sights set on the big one, and not rushing back those returning players could be crucial to the Magpies hopes of pushing the Richmonds, Port Adelaides and Sydney Swans of this world in the finals. Moore’s return to fitness is particularly important, with the team already missing Lynden Dunn following his season-ending knee injury, leaving a sizeable hole in their defence. But as we’ve seen this season, Collingwood have a roster capable of stepping up and filling in when needed, and that strength in depth has been one of the most impressive aspects of the campaign for the club.
That was evident in Collingwood’s 16-point win over an Essendon team that produced one of their most determined performances of the season. Chasing a place in the top eight, the Bombers pushed their opponents more than many would have expected from a 12th placed team against one sitting second in the table. It was the Collingwood stalwart Scott Pendlebury who popped up in the last quarter to see his side come out on top in a tough game. Another long-serving Pies man Steele Sidebottom also grabbed the headlines, scoring two goals in his 200th appearance for the club.
With a number of huge games coming up between now and the end of the season, the team will be under no illusions they haven’t achieved anything yet. A lot can happen over the course of seven games, and continuing this winning streak would play a significant role in just how short Collingwood will be with the bookies by the time the finals get underway. And if the majority of the players currently sidelined can get back on the field before the end of the season, Collingwood could well be the favourites with many to win their first premiership in eight years.